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Borknagar - "Urd" (CD)

Borknagar - "Urd" CD cover image

"Urd" track listing:

1. Epochalypse
2. Roots
3. The Beauty Of Dead Cities
4. The Earthling
5. The Plains Of Memories
6. Mount Regency
7. Frostrite
8. The Winter Eclipse
9. In A Deeper World
10. Age of Creation (Bonus Track)
11. My Friend Misery (Bonus Track)

Reviewed by on March 16, 2012

"'Urd' has a massive and fully modern sound that celebrates the band’s history while not being bound by it. Filled with less brutal moments and proggy meanderings, the disc still has a fully black metal focused mood..."

Showing the young upstarts how it’s done and reminding the world that Norway is the capital of black metal for a reason, Borknagar’s latest album “Urd” is both a continuation of a recognizable sound and a fantastic progression into unexplored territory that gives old time fans something new to digest. “Urd” is a massively eclectic album, but it still retains enough of the feel from the glory days of early albums to remain true to Borknagar’s style of symphonic black metal.

Although there are plenty of growls to be found, the album focuses more on clean singing, particularly from ICS Vortex. So for anyone who missed him since leaving Dimmu Borgir, or just couldn’t get enough of his new solo album “Storm Seeker” (reviewed here), these tracks will be quite refreshing, with “Frostrite” in particular almost sounding like a continuation of the “Storm Seeker” project.

Having existed since the mid-90s, and composed of members involved in the early days of the extreme metal scene, Borknagar is surprisingly forward thinking with this album, while still nodding to the past. There is a familiar atmosphere and song structure to each of the songs, but they are all taken forward in a new direction and modernized. It’s like a trip down memory lane occurring simultaneously with a trek into the next stage of the genre.

The unexpected and avant-garde touches that go past traditional symphonic black metal are plentiful, like the “ah-ah’s” in the background of “Epochalypse” or the psychedelic and progtastic “Mount Regency.” “The Beauty of Dead Cities” goes completely off the map, in an awesome way, with upbeat and rock oriented vocals in a song that is simultaneously extreme and mainstream-friendly. To fully emphasize just how wide reaching the sounds are, it should be noted that at various times throughout the album I found myself thinking both “Man, I wish the latest Dimmu Borgir had sounded more like this” and “Man, I wish the new Opeth had sounded more like this.”

Again breaking out of the norm, the two bonus tracks included with some editions of “Urd” aren’t throwaways or second hand leftovers, but rather seem integral to the sound of the whole album. The Metallica cover of “My Friend of Misery” is particularly interesting, throwing a symphonic spin on the track and – while diehard Metallica fans may disagree – frankly Borknagar’s version is better. The other bonus song, “Age of Creation,” sounds like the Borknagar guys from 2001 somehow got transported to 2012 and recorded an album with more modern production, further showing how the band can progress while maintaining true to a core sound (compare “Age of Creation” to the “Empiricism” track “The Genuine Pulse”).

“Urd” has a massive and fully modern sound that celebrates the band’s history while not being bound by it. Filled with less brutal moments and proggy meanderings, the disc still has a fully black metal focused mood and never fails to be constantly interesting. Borknagar has outdone itself with this one.

Highs: The recognizable Borknagar sound is taken to the next level as the album explores a wide range of new sounds.

Lows: Not much really - the chorus and lyrics on "The Earthling" aren't quite as compelling as the other tracks, and the drums on "Age of Creation" are a little low in the mix, but these are minor quibbles.

Bottom line: A must-have for fans of symphonic black metal or prog metal as Borknagar advances its sound to new heights.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)